Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing the coal industry to expand sales at home and abroad, undermining hopes among environmentalists that he'd use the Fukushima nuclear disaster to switch the nation to renewables.
A new energy plan approved by the Cabinet on Friday designates coal an important long-term electricity source while falling short of setting specific targets for cleaner energy from wind, solar and geothermal. The policy also gives nuclear power the same prominence as coal in Japan's energy strategy.
In many ways, utilities are already ahead of policymakers. With nuclear reactors idled for safety checks, Japan's 10 power companies consumed 5.66 million metric tons of coal in January, a record for the month and 12 percent more than a year ago, according to industry figures.